Monday, May 11, 2009

The Strongest Boy in the World: How Genetic Information Is Reshaping our Lives. Review

Stories involving genetics abound in the mainstream press; we are continually confronted with reports about controversies or breakthroughs around cloning, stem cell research, animal– human hybrids, ‘designer babies’, the breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, or yet another man on death row freed after DNA testing proves his innocence. How does the average person not schooled in molecular biology or genetics make sense of these stories? The Strongest Boy in the World: How Genetic Information Is Reshaping our Lives aims to demystify some of the genetics-based controversies of our age and ‘ameliorate the unease’ that many people have about the science.

While the story about the so-called strongest boy is a curious anecdote about a four-year-old boy in Germany with unusually large muscles, it is the subtitle that more adequately addresses the heart of this lively collection of essays. Philip R. Reilly (physician, lawyer, geneticist and former CEO of Interleukin Genetics) describes for a lay audience the role that genetics plays in the transformation of our world, in such vastly different arenas as medicine, sports, pets, crime, our food supply, genealogical research and reproduction.

Being confronted by evidence that so much of our lives is apparently being infiltrated by genetics research may leave some readers feeling more unease, not less, despite the author’s intentions. For his part, Reilly does not portray a completely rosy picture of our brave new world, nor does he back away from discussing the complicated ethical dilemmas and unintended consequences such research raises.

One of his previous books includes The Surgical Solution: A History of Involuntary Sterilization in the United States, and the spectre of eugenics hovers over several of the essays here.

Because Reilly writes about such a wide range of topics (genetic screening of athletes, the origins of ‘race’, gene therapy, cloning dead pets, ‘golden rice’, and DNA forensics, to name a few), The Strongest Boy in the World at times feels scattered and undeveloped.

The reader is left wanting to know more about the role that genetics plays in human longevity, for example, before jumping into the next essay about whether or not there is a genetic basis behind disparities in IQ.

On the other hand, while Reilly may have sacrificed depth for breadth, its breadth is indeed one of the book’s main strengths. It underlines his central argument that genetic information is transforming what seems to be virtually every aspect of our lives.

Some of these aspects, as Reilly characterizes and organizes them, are humanity, disease, animals and plants, and society. Genetic information affects how we understand ourselves in terms of our innate capacities, and by doing so, raises the possibility of using technology for enhancement, such as ‘gene doping’ to gain an edge in sports. Searching for genetic bases of medical disorders may provide insight not only into the origins of illness, but may yield therapies, treatments and possible cures.

Reilly is especially strong in discussing the bioethics of genetics and disease. Genetics has reconceptualized the meanings of risk, from the point of view not only of individuals and families affected, but also that of pharmaceutical companies, physicianscientists and society at large. If DNA testing reveals certain people to be ‘at risk’ of developing a life-threatening disorder such as Huntington’s Disease, for example, how will this information change the way they live, such as decisions to marry or have children?

Of what value is genetic testing for disorders when there is no satisfactory treatment? To what end should the information gathered about the genetic origins of medical disorders be used?

The last question could well be asked of much of genetic research today: we should be having conversations about motives behind this knowledge seeking, about what we are to do with the knowledge that it yields, and how we are to judge the efficacy of what may be largely predictive, not definitive, data. Popular media (both the science press and science fiction alike) often presents genetics as the ultimate, determinist set of knowledge, eliding the role of the environment in its interaction with genes. Yet as a geneticist such as Reilly will tell you, some aspects of the science is akin to a bookie giving odds (p. 243).

Reilly appears to be most ill at ease when genetic information is used towards eugenic ends or social engineering (such as using pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to select desirable traits in offspring), but he is no Luddite. He champions the use of genetically-modified corn and rice as techno-fixes to world hunger, marvels at how haplotype analysis of Y chromosomes and mitochondrial DNA can be used to study evolution and genealogy, and makes an impassioned plea for stem cell research.

Regardless of where one stands in terms of the ethical dilemmas and policy implications Reilly raises, it is hard to disagree with him on the point that the way we understand ourselves, our environment, our history and our society has been fundamentally altered by genetic information. That his writing style is animated, anecdoteheavy, and not filled with jargon does not hurt, either. Essays would be appropriate for discussion in undergraduate and graduate courses in bioethics, genetic counselling and the sociology of science.

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Train Math Skills With Space Traveller Game

Test your analogy and math skills, and then work your way into the space by answering the space exploration trivia questions.

you can find more free math games here

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

More Math

I"ve beaten it to death, but it has to be said. Our Business Math class is getting ready to take the final exam, and I've done most of the review problems. Unfortunately, I will NEVER remember all the stupid formulas and the correct use of the tables. It's simply impossible (for me, anyhow). I could spend the rest of my life trying to figure out which table to use for annuities and interest and would fail miserably. All this so I can drive my Grade Point Average down.

The weather outside will be frightful

The weather persons in our area are predicting the first snowfall tonight and tomorrow. The Weather Channel is predicting one to two inches, while locally, the weather people are saying 'could be much more.' Who do you believe? The East Coast was slammed with snow the past few days, so I guess it's our turn.

We'll see what happens.


Friday, March 06, 2009

when your brother kidnapped your date... jeng jeng jeng

panas sungguh ye hari ini. saya mandi sebanyak 6 kali hari ini. sungguh panas. entah mengapa. cuaca cuaca begini...apakah mahunya???

had laksa today. hezzy, i had LAKSA!!! YUMMY!!! operasi assam laksa bersama hezzy di summit masih pending ye... bila ntah nak berjalan.

esok aku mahu ke o.u. aku mahu nonton van helsing. ada bagus or not cerita itu? watched secret window last friday. agak bagus. agak bagus.

why my entries all so like this wannn nowdays? aiyyer, stop coming here la. buang you all punye masa only!!!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

the minty-fresh breath that's sure to outlast this catastrophe, dance with me, cuz if you've got the poise then baby i'm the remedy
i think it's been a year or two since i've made a layout. maybe i will later if i feel so inspired.

every so often i go through a buddy list cleaning. and now is my all time low. i do go online now, just not as often as i used to which i think is a nice balance. anyway i'm down to a good 60 buuut a lot of them are repeat people or they're me OR i dont like them but theyre still there so i know when to go away so i actually only have like 50. ever keep just a name you dont really talk to but dont want to lose track of? yeah well i let those go too. i wonder what it'll be like after a year or so of college. would i dare to let go of people i mgiht never be able to find again otherwise?

this is stuck in my head hahahah
I shake it like jello,
And make the boys say hello,
Cause they know im rockin' the beat
(Rocking the beat),
I know you heard about a lot of great MC's,
But they ain't got nothing on me (nothing on me),
Because im 5 foot 2,
I wanna dance with you,
And im sophisticated fun,
I eat filet mignon,
And I'm nice and young,
Best believe im number one.

Monday, December 29, 2008

the oc=bs

i saw orange county today. i liked the movie overall but the ending was so lame. the guy spends the entire movie trying to get into stanford. and when he finally does?! he says NO "i don't need to go to stanford to be a good writer" just because his effing girlfriend wants him to go to orange county university so they can be "together." are you effing kidding me?! yes it is so sweet and everything but what kind of retarded message is mtv trying to send to kids? i'm sure it makes kids who are rejected from their #1 choice feel better but choosing stanford over some random schooL?! i found it completely unbelievable. it's not like he was moving to new york. maybe i'm just being a heartless biz here but it's not like he was married to this girl. realistically speaking there's no way they would be together forever so why throw it away!

on a side note. i watched kate & leopold yesterday. and i just realized that in the time-warp-continuum whatever. the guys great great great grandfather was bound to marry meg ryan. so meg ryan had to be with the guy to be with leopold in the end. but (ok i'm sicK) isn't it kind of messed up that relatively speaking meg ryan was the girlfriend to her own great great grandchild?! i mean the whole movie isn't supposed to make sense but i think the fact that someone overlooked that piece of incestuous information is hilarious.

OH yeah i also watched lost in translation yesterday. and the cinematography (wow i sound advanced HAHA) was real pretty and all that. but i totally did not understand it. it was just a bunch of nothing. maybe it's because at the big climax at the end i already started flipping through my mom's vogue out of boredom so the point went right over my head. i am just not artsy fartsy enough to understand such deep things i guess. give me more chick flicks with incestuous relationships please. hahahahahaa

movies are so messed up. imagine what i would say if i watched american pie or something. geez!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

brake failure

Jill's car was unreliable and she called John for a ride every time it broke down. One day John got yet another one of those calls.

"What happened this time?" he asked.

"My brakes went out," Jill said. "Can you come to get me?"

"Where are you?" John asked.

"I'm in the drugstore," Jill responded.

"And where's the car?" John asked.

Jill replied, "It's in here with me."